President Barack Obama is due to visit Atherton, again, on Feb. 11, to raise funds for Democrats but this time the town shouldn't have to provide police and other services for free, thanks to a new special events ordinance that says hosts must pay for such services.
That's because after a 2013 visit by President Obama to Atherton that left the town with $8,000 in bills, but no law on the books to allow it to demand repayment, Atherton decided to rewrite its special events ordinance.
The changes, approved by the City Council in July, require those hosting special events to pay for any police, public works or other town services the event requires, plus the costs of issuing the permit.
City Manager George Rodericks said that once the town heard about the planned Feb. 11 fundraising visit, which was announced in an email from the Democratic National Committee, Police Chief Ed Flint asked the Secret Service "to either confirm or deny," the president is coming to town.
Early Thursday afternoon, Mr. Rodericks said the town had heard back from the Secret Service and spoken to the property owner, both confirming the president is indeed scheduled to visit Atherton. Mr. Rodericks said that because the police department and possibly the public works department "will be involved to some degree," the town will be advising the property owners that a special events permit is required and "that they will be responsible for any costs incurred" by the town.
After the 2013 visit, the town sent bills to the hosts and the Democratic National Committee, but they were not paid.
Under the ordinance, a permit is required for any special event "that requires the assistance of the town for traffic control, public safety services, extraordinary parking control measures, waiver of any local, state, or federal ordinance, or other mitigation measures arising from the special event."
Mr. Rodericks said that had the planned fundraising event not involved the president "it is unlikely that it would have triggered a special event permit." He said events of a similar size occur regularly on private property in Atherton and do not usually require special town services. He also excused the fact that the special events permit wasn't taken out 60 days in advance, as the ordinance requires. "It is understandable with events involving POTUS that notice and details are less than what the town's ordinance requires," he said.
According to the email from the Democratic National Committee, the brunch reception with the president will be held at the home of Steve Westly, the former California state controller who is rumored to be pondering a run for governor.
Mr. Westly and his wife, Anita Yu, live not far from Alameda de las Pulgas, so the brunch event is bound to cause some traffic tieups. The invitation did not reveal the exact time of the event, but did say that tickets are $250 for general admission, $1,000 for premium seating, $10,000 to be a photo line guest and $25,000 to be a co-host.
Mr. Rodericks said the police department will be briefed before the event "to discuss routing and other details none of which will be disclosed in advance for security reasons."
President Obama has been at the Westly-Yu home at least once before, in 2010 when he was raising funds for Kamala Harris' run for state attorney general. A venture capitalist, Mr. Westly was one of the candidates vying to be the Democratic Party nominee for governor in 2006. He co-chaired President Obama's California campaign in 2008.
According to a report by the California Secretary of State, in February 2015, a total of 39 percent of registered voters in Atherton were Republicans, while San Mateo County as a whole had fewer than 19 percent registered Republicans. The town had 31 percent registered Democrats, and almost as many more who belonged to small parties or were unaffiliated.